EAGAN, Minn. — No one knows what Kevin O’Connell’s offensive scheme looks like in action. Not even the Vikings.
Though there’s certainly some things to draw on — like the fact that it looks very similar to what the Los Angeles Rams run under Sean McVay, or the fact that the Vikings have already showcased aspects of it in practices this summer — a majority of the new offense has been kept under wraps.
The unveiling will come in Sunday’s 3:25 p.m. season opener against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“We love it,” star receiver Justin Jefferson said ahead of Thursday’s practice at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. “We’re excited to showcase it.”
It’s been a long road to this point.
Not long after O’Connell became head coach this winter, he started reaching out to various Vikings players to give them an idea of what things were going to look like. He started installing the new system at organized team activities in the spring, then worked on refining it at training camp in the summer.
And now, with the season upon them, the Vikings are starting to grasp a scheme that many consider to be extremely complex.
“It’s probably the toughest offense I’ve had to learn,” veteran receiver Adam Thielen said. “Things are starting to click a little bit. You’re not having to think as much, which obviously is huge in this league. You don’t want to be out there thinking.”
What’s made learning the new offense so difficult?
“Just a lot of verbiage,” Thielen said while explaining that some play calls are condensed down to a single word. “Sometimes playbooks are a lot of words and everybody knows what to do because (the words) are tagged or everyone is told what to do through a play call. This offense is a lot more memorization.”
Not to mention, it comes with a big playbook with a lot of formations and such designed to look the same before the snap.
“It takes time,” franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “Every day we’re putting the work in to build a great foundation.”
Though it seems like everybody is slowly but surely starting to get on the same page, with the Vikings opting to rest pretty much every starter in their three preseason games, nobody can say with 100 percent certainty what the new offense is going to look like.
Not once has O’Connell relayed a play call to Cousins during a game. Nor has Cousins thrown a pass to Jefferson or Thielen in a game situation.
“Just getting to Week 1 will be a big thing for us to see how (O’Connell) calls the game,” Thielen said. “There are different situations that don’t necessarily come up a lot in practice that we have to be in the game to realize. I’m excited about that, to see how it kind of looks.”
Asked about not playing in the preseason, Jefferson admitted it has been tough to stay patient. He’s been anxiously waiting to get a glimpse of the new offense, and he seems confident that O’Connell is going to put everybody in a good position to succeed.
“Just seeing what the Rams did last season, I just feel confident that he’s going to be calling some great plays,” Jefferson said. “He knows the personnel. He knows who we are as receivers. He knows where to get us the ball and when we need it.”
All-pro running back Dalvin Cook has been extremely secretive about how he’s going to be used in the new offense. Asked about his usage once again earlier this week, Cook continued to play his cards close to the vest.
“You never know with the game of football,” he said with a laugh while setting up the punchline. “I might throw it.”
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